Skylar Bayer is a marine biologist, a storyteller, a science communicator, and a producer for The Story Collider. Currently, she is completing a fellowship in policy in D.C., where she is learning how to communicate in Congress. However, her heart, husband, house, and dogs all still reside in Maine. She completed her Ph.D. in the secret sex lives of scallops, a subject that landed her on The Colbert Report in 2013. Since then she has dabbled in a diversity of science communication activities, all of which you can read about on her website. She also enjoys Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the gentle art.
Briefly describe your current work and your research.
Currently I am a Knauss Sea Grant Fellow working in the U.S. Senate on environment and infrastructure-related issues in Congress. My research background is in population dynamics, in particular the fertilization and reproductive ecology of marine invertebrates.
What do you love the most about your job?
My current job is great because I get to learn something new everyday about policy, legislation and politics. What is also wonderful is that my skills I’ve acquired as a researcher are helpful for researching issues in Congress. My knowledge of science, the process of science, scientists, and basic information (and where to find it) about biological systems and the environment have been very helpful and important for some of the projects I’ve worked on this year.
How difficult was it to get where you are today?
I would say it was very difficult in some ways, easier in others. My support systems — networks of friends, family and mentors — have been instrumental in my success. No one gets anywhere all by themselves.
What was the biggest obstacle in your way before your career reached where it is today? How did you overcome it?
I don’t think there was just one big obstacle. There were lots of little ones. There have always been people in my professional life (or personal life) that have discouraged me. One discrete event that was difficult was when I was diagnosed with a heart condition that ended my SCUBA diving career. You can listen to the story I told about here: https://www.storycollider.org/stories/2016/8/12/skylar-bayer-the-hummingbird-of-doom
What are you looking forward to the most in the future of marine science?
For the future of the field in general? More public investment in conserving our oceans, finding out more about organisms — we have barely scratched the surface of what we know about most marine organisms (especially invertebrates).
How do you think we can get more women involved within marine science?
I think more women can get involved in marine science if they see themselves already represented in the field for one. Another would be if the culture of academia changed in general to allow for people to have families without being penalized, or be a woman at all and not have that hold them back. If average men can be scientists, I think average women should be able to as well — they shouldn’t have to be the most incredible, toughest, badass female ever to survive the field of science. It should be for everyone that has a passion for science.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring female marine scientists?
Network, network, network. You need to find multiple mentors and allies to help you get through the hurdles of being a scientist. I had to reach out and ask for help, to seek out mentorship for different issues that my advisor could not (or would not) help me with. Please help one another out — it is not a zero sum game whatsoever. Also, just because someone who is very well educated and respected doesn’t support an idea of yours, does not always mean it is a bad idea.
In one sentence, why do you think a career within marine science is a great career option?
When you go out into the field, all you have to do is close your eyes and listen to the ocean and you’ll have your answer as to why it is a great career choice.
Social Media Links
Personal webpage: skylarbayer.wordpress.com
The Story Collider: https://www.storycollider.org/team-bios/2018/6/14/skylar-bayer
I would like to give a massive thank you to Skylar Bayer for participating in this interview. I cannot wait to share more of your stories and I hope that you find inspiration in learning of other journeys within marine science.
Are you a woman working within marine science? Would you like to share your story and inspire the next generation? Please get in contact with me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be involved with the Leading Women in Marine Science Interview Series.
Disclaimer: All responses to the interview questions and the biography belong to Skylar Bayer. All photographs have been used with the permission of Skylar Bayer.